Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Thursday, January 05, 2006

To Taba--then Bethlehem

My Christmas vacation began in the late evening of December 22nd when the 8 of us YAGMs, along with Lynn and Dick, boarded a community bus at 11:15pm for a night of traveling to Taba—the only open entrance into Israel from Egypt. The bus was, well, FREEZING. First of all, we were driving through the desert in the middle of the night. Cold spell #1. Secondly, there was no heat on the bus. Cold spell #2. Thirdly, the door wouldn’t shut all the way so there was a constant cold draft coming through the crack. Cold Spell #3. Oh, and let me add that we had assigned seats on the crowded bus and I happened to be next to the window (COLD!) on the right side of the bus, three rows back; prime spot to receive the draft from the door. I was wearing four layers of shirts/sweatshirts along with my rain jacket, mittens, and a hat. I was still cold. Between the crazy desert driving, the cold, and sitting straight up, I couldn’t sleep a wink all night. (This is now my third all-nighter since living in Egypt…not so cool.) Around 3am the bus driver started blasting a movie called “Shark Zone.” I don’t know how in the world people were able to stay sleeping through the loud noise of sharks thrashing in the water eating people. As silly as the movie was, it was at least entertaining to make fun of it with Jay. Jay and I also entertained ourselves by watching the road ahead and counting the number of vegetation or road signs we saw…needless to say there weren’t many, but it was strangely fun anyhow.

In the early AM we arrived at Taba and spent the next four hour in the border crossing. We spent a lot of time on the Egyptian side of the passport control, mostly because no one was working. Then, on the Israeli side, we waited another couple hours because we had a suspicious member of our party—Teri. Why? Because she has been to Syria and Lebanon. After taking her passport away she was drilled with tons of questions such as to her address, the dates of her previous trip to Israel, whether she knew anyone in Israel or Palestine, what she is doing here this time, what she did in Syria and Lebanon, her dad’s name, her mom’s name, the place her dad was born, her dad’s phone number, etc. Yeah, intense. Ironically, Jay was at the desk at the same time asking that the passport control people not stamp his passport because he’s going to Lebanon in two weeks. Sure, okay, no questions asked. Odd. In the meantime we hung out with other young people who were also sitting at passport control. Two were suspicious because they are Egyptians and other group because one guy’s family is from East Jerusalem. (His name is Khalil, and by fate Jay and I had met him the week before at Frisbee and we continued to run into him and his friend Prescott for the rest of our vacation.)

Even though I was pretty exhausted by this point, I kept eating cheese bread and juice boxes for energy and went outside to view the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba. I can’t tell you how refreshing this was. The air was clean and cool, and there were no nasty men and no pollution filling my nostrils with soot. I actually breathed in deeply and didn’t cough. It was wonderful! Eventually we were able to rent a minibus to take us to Bethlehem, where we had time to sleep and get ready before going out again.

That evening we went to Niveen’s home. Niveen is a Palestinian from Beit Jala (a village outside Bethlehem) who graduated with Carole from the Evangelical Seminary in Cairo. We’ve heard so much about her all fall and it was a delight to be greeted into her home. Her mother cooked us Palestinian food, which included a lot of chicken and red meat, so I was really excited. For dessert it was chocolate and wine—a Christmas tradition in Bethlehem. You can’t beat that! Niveen lives in a beautiful modest home, decorated with a Christmas tree and nativity set (using a doll as Jesus) and large photos of individual family members in every corner of the main room.


  • At 1/07/2006, Anonymous Alif said…

    Road signs! Who needs those!
    As for your experience on the border, although being boring at the least and frustrating at the most, I'm glad you've been through it because the more young American people like you who witness them the more understanding of how complicated things in this part of the world are and the more it becomes possible for more understanding to seep into your world, instead of the mess that currently exists.


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